Ya Me Cansé

Last Friday Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam announced at a press conference that officials believe they have found the remains of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa. The basic story the government has put forth is that police turned the students over to Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang with ties to the former mayor of Iguala and his wife (who officials recently apprehended). Members of Guerreros Unidos killed the students, chopped up their bodies, added branches and trash to the pile, and then doused it in gasoline and set it aflame. They kept the fire burning for more than twelve hours, until all that remained was ash, some teeth that “turned to powder” when touched, … [Read more...]

Beyond the Bakesale: PTAs, Education Reform, & the Best of UHA 2014, Part 1

Several times a year, the intrepid reporters of Tropics of Meta follow the academic conference beat, checking out panels on everything from the Illuminati to Asian American basketball leagues and sissy rap. At their best, conferences offer a window into the freshest and most innovative historical scholarship, and our reports on panels aim to give readers an early look at the groundbreaking articles and books of tomorrow.  This year's Urban History Association conference was the organization's eighth biennial meeting, and the world's hardest working urbanists braved the persistent drizzle of "always sunny" Philadelphia to attend panels and plenaries on the campus of the University of … [Read more...]

“Taking Compton National”: Schools, Race, and Modern Suburbia in 20th and 21st Century California

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, One Black, One White – separate and unequal,” announced the 1968 Kerner Commission. In 1967, following riots that had erupted across urban America, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the commission, appointing former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner Jr as its chairman, to delineate the causes of American unrest; unsurprisingly, the report concluded that poverty, segregation, and lack of economic opportunities corroded urban minority neighborhoods while whites fled to middle and upper class suburban environs, taking income and businesses with them.Undoubtedly, the Kerner Commission correctly identified many of the systematic problems afflicting … [Read more...]

The Massive Missed Opportunity

Tanner Colby wants to use history to rethink liberal orthodoxy on questions of race and racism, but his stories so far reproduce as much rotten accepted wisdom as they challenge. Over at Slate, Tanner Colby is celebrating Black History Month with a series titled “The Massive Liberal Failure on Race.” The premise is simple: despite having been “ceded a monopoly on caring about black people” by the Republican right, liberals “hold on to some really bad ideas about race.” As a remedy, Colby prescribes a dose of history, a retelling of the “liberal establishment’s mishandling of this volatile issue” in order to encourage today’s liberals to “purge outdated orthodoxies, admit past mistakes, … [Read more...]

Incubating Scholarship and Smart Students: Teaching and Publishing at Community Colleges amidst the New Realities of Academia: Best of AHA 2014, Part 4

For Part 1 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification - click here For Part 2 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves - click here For Part 3 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform - click here For coverage of other conferences like UHA 2010/2012, AHA 2012, and others -  click here. “It’s like explaining something to a bright ten year old,” Emily Tai, an Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College told the audience. Tai, speaking to fellow historians, and … [Read more...]

“City of Achievement”: The Making of the City of South El Monte, 1955-1976

The official seal of the City of South El Monte bears the words “City of Achievement.” Pictured on the seal are a golden trophy, a shield reading “All American City,” and the silhouettes of a factory and a 1950s-style ranch house with the legend “incorporated in 1958.” At a glance, this seal seems generic. Thousands of cities and towns, not just in greater Los Angeles but all across the United States, incorporated in the two decades after World War II. Nearly all of them were founded on a combination of industrial and residential development in the suburban areas around major cities, and they all claimed to be “All-American” communities. The founding of South El Monte took place in the … [Read more...]

The War on the War on Poverty in North Carolina

As North Carolina has recently fallen into the hands of the far right, it is worth revisiting where the state’s Republican Party came from.  The force and ferocity of the new conservative push has stunned many in the Tar Heel state, which had a record of electing moderate Democrats in many local elections but Republicans in races for the presidency and Congress.  But when the GOP took full control of state government in 2012, they set out on a single-minded ideological assault on women, minorities, voting rights, higher education, the environment and just about everything else imaginable. The roots of this revanchist movement can be found, like so many things good and bad about … [Read more...]

Raging Grannies Battle for the Soul of the New South

America's partisan political wars have come to North Carolina, as big-money donors have helped bring the most ideologically extreme right-wing state government to power since the days of Jim Crow.  (Democrats have been vastly outspent in recent elections, thanks in part to the largesse of Art Pope, NC's answer to the Koch brothers and the current state budget director.)  The GOP took over the legislature in the Tea Party wave of 2010, when a backlash against healthcare reform and frustration over the ailing economy swept right-wing politicians into office across the country.  Republicans took advantage of once-a-decade redistricting to draw lines that deliberately diluted the voting power of … [Read more...]

The Thin End of the Wedge: Faculty House, Columbia University, and the Future of Higher Education in America

While news of the ongoing labor dispute at Columbia University’s Faculty House has gotten out—you can read about it in The Nation—its full implications remain obscure.  On its surface the fight appears straightforward: Faculty House is a branch of Columbia University’s Dining Services and located on its East Campus. An event space and upscale restaurant ostensibly for Columbia faculty and their guests, it employs 34 workers. On March 31, 2013, their contract expires. It has been an awful contract, exploitative, and of questionable legality. It is a contract which the workers want to change. The story of this dispute is about stolen tips; it is about “part-time” workers pulling eighty-hour … [Read more...]

Using Science Fiction to Teach History (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Distant Future)

I have been reluctant to use fiction in my courses.  This is despite the fact that my own high school and college educations introduced me to most of the fiction I know; as a recalcitrant and noncommittal reader of non-nonfiction, I still find it difficult to get through even the best literary prose.  But the diminutive and terrifying Sharia Isenhour got me to read Crime and Punishment and Cry the Beloved Country in 10th grade—this was a woman who was utterly distinguished by a mien somewhere between drill sergeant and Communist re-educator. My college courses, at a public university not much different from the one where I currently teach, demanded an ambitious diet of literature; at UNCC, … [Read more...]